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What is a Rotary Cutter?

By J. Beam
Updated May 16, 2024
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A rotary cutter is a cutting tool that resembles a pizza cutter and is most frequently used with quilting projects, though other applications are possible. Like a pizza cutter, a rotary cutter has a handle with a round blade attached to the end. The blade of a rotary cutter is extremely sharp, designed to cut through several layers of fabric at once.

Rotary cutters come in various shapes and sizes, each designed to perform a different task. When choosing one, make sure the handle is ergonomic and comfortable to hold. Smaller blades make cutting corners and curves easier, but most quilters and crafters use larger blades most often. In quilting, the rotary cutter saves time because it can cut multiple squares of fabric at a time. Beginners should practice a bit before using a rotary cutter on several layers of fabric in order to keep the dimensions accurate.

A rotary cutter is used in conjunction with a rotary mat and a rotary ruler. The mat is placed underneath the fabric to protect the work surface from the blade. The ruler used with a rotary cutter is typically transparent, with various units of measurement marked along the side. The ruler not only helps you measure your cutting, but also helps you maintain accuracy and hold the fabric or other medium in place while you cut.

Though quilting and sewing are prime examples of the use of a rotary cutter, many paper crafters who mass-produce homemade cards also use a rotary cutter for cutting multiple sheets of cardstock. When selecting a rotary cutter, you might want to consider a larger blade to begin with and then add additional sizes as the need arises. Many rotary cutter tools have interchangeable blades, allowing for multiple blade sizes to be used with the same handle. Most rotary cutters come with a protective sheath for storing, but remember that the blades are razor sharp and the tool should be kept out of the reach of children. When you notice that your rotary cutter blade no longer cuts smoothly, you can simply replace the blade.

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